Friday, July 08, 2011

Class Warfare

I grew up poor.  I think pissing contests about what constitutes poor are kind of dumb, but I was technically homeless for awhile in high school, and even before then there were plenty of times utilities got turned off (and sometimes turned back on illegally, hello water key), and we lived in one house for a while where there was quite literally a giant hole in the kitchen floor (which was eventually covered by a piece of plywood) because the rent there was like $250/month and nowhere else was so cheap.  I've traced some of my eating issues to my childhood; apparently it's pretty common for poor people to overeat when given the opportunity 'cause you never know when there will be more to eat.

And I'm poor now, but it's a different sort of poor, which is kinda made obvious by the way I'm on the internet right now.  Erik makes enough for our basic needs to be met, and the child support makes it possible to do a few nice little things, but when I hear folks on Dave Ramsey talking about how they can't pay their bills on $2000 a month I want to slap the fuck out of them 'cause we'd pee ourselves in delight if we had that much money.  It was very sobering to look at the income limits for Medicaid when I was pregnant with Marie and realize that we'd qualify even if we just had two kids.  (Yes, the kids are on Medicaid.  Their father is required under the terms of the divorce to provide them with health insurance, but he doesn't, and Erik isn't offered insurance.  I'm willing to leave myself without insurance, but not them.)**

I realized yesterday, though, that there was a point in my life, and really not that long ago, when I lived a comfortably middle class existence.  From the time my ex-husband got promoted to E-5 in 2002 until he got kicked out of the Navy for being fat in 2006, things were good.  We had nice places to live (an apartment on Granby St. in Norfolk, within walking distance of the zoo and the Ghent neighborhood, a townhouse in Honolulu), we had great health insurance, we ate out a fair amount and bought new clothes and books and saw movies and such.

I miss that life, though I barely remember it.  I am determined to get back to it, and I finally have a roadmap.  In many ways, being poor is akin to being depressed (I have been both).  When you are in that hole, it's hard to see a way out, even if you know there is one.

So...class warfare, as the title promised.  To look at me now, and how I grew up, I should be a Democrat.  I grew up in a pretty liberal household--my mom lived with hippies for a while, okay--the daughter of a single mother.  I was a single mom for a while myself.  I'm poor now.  But I'm not a Democrat, or any sort of progressive, and I sure as hell don't believe in taxing the rich.

Why not?  Two things.  The most important one is critical thinking.

Look, I'm a grown-up.  I know what it takes to become successful in this country: education, ambition, and hard work.  Lots and lots of hard work.  Yeah, it helps a whole lot if your family was successful too and can guide you toward the right path, but there are plenty of folks who rise up from nothing to be successful, so it's not strictly necessary.

The people who have more than I do worked damned hard to get what they have.   I don't know anyone who had a fortune handed to them.  I know people who put in years and years at school and hours and hours and hours at jobs after their schooling was completed.  Quite often, they missed out on a large part of their kids' early years working, or had fewer kids than they  wanted to, or rarely saw their spouses in order to be successful.  (My definition of successful, by the way, is "having money left over after paying for necessities.")

And knowing this ties into the other reason I don't go for class warfare: It is, quite simply, immoral.

That's right.  Immoral.  Redistribution of wealth, taxing the rich to give to the poor as it were, is very close to evil.  Because you aren't just taking their money, you are taking the fruit of years of effort and labor.  You are effectively enslaving people.  And why? So me and mine can have more?  Good lord, no one made my ex and I decide I'd stay home and take care of the kids.  No one made my ex eat himself out of a promising career, or fuck himself out of another one.

My life is a product of my decisions (and those of the people whom I gave power over me), just as others' lives are a product of their decisions.

Class warfare works by dehumanizing people.  They are The Rich.  They are not Dave, SpeakerTweaker, JayG, BobS, Borepatch (I know, y'all aren't rich, but you are successful by a given definition thereof, and as I said, you worked for it).  I can't dehumanize people; I'm a Kantian by disposition, and using people as nothing more than a means to an end--which is what Democrats do--is abhorrent to me.

And you will notice this about liberals: They are more than willing to take over a third of some nameless person's income in order to "help out" some faceless poor people (and later on I will talk about what a crock their idea of help really is), but pretty much no one ever takes 36% of their own money and gives it to a family with less.  The mindset is always someone oughta do something, never I'm gonna go do something.

Big difference.

**Yeah.  About that.  I could afford the kids I had, when I had 'em.  Except for Marie.  God love her.  She was a bit of a miscalculation; when she was conceived Erik had a good job, and like a damned fool I figured he'd be able to find one here without any trouble.  Much as I want a passel o' kids, we're trying to make sure that doesn't happen until circumstances materially improve quite a bit.


TBeck said...

Socialism is about forcing everybody to equally wallow in misery, except for the ones running the show. That's real class warfare.

Sabra, you guys are doing right by the kids and that is what TRULY matters. They get to have plenty of time with Mom and Dad instead of a trust fund and bitter memories. How many people look back on life and wish they could have made an extra twenty grand a year?

Anonymous said...

I know what you mean and agree wholeheartedly. I grew up poor too, though not nearly as poor as you were. But in a ten person family, you don't get a lot of stuff. And as an adult I've never been anywhere close to wealthy. My best years were probably when I was in the military. That and the time when I was a truck driver. Never had much chance to spend my money then. And being unemployed for most of the last several years has been tough. Things are finally looking up though. MC just got a job at the local community college and she'll be making about $15,000 more than before. And I'll finally graduate next spring and hopefully get a job and it'll be a whole new world.
Anyway, 99% of my problems were my own doing and there is no reason someone who has more money than I should have their money taken and given to me. That's ridiculous, and I agree, it's evil.

Bob S. said...

I grew up "upper lower middle class" or something.

Back in the 70s, pay for the military wasn't as good as it is now. We managed but it did make an impact on how I viewed money and finances.

I saw my mom and dad borrow money to have a 'good christmas' then work to pay off the loan only to borrow even more money to pay off the original loan and more christmas the next year.

I saw that many things people considered necessities weren't.

I saw the years when we had a single present under the tree or for our birthdays as motivations to work harder, not to take what other people have earned.

Robert Kiwosaki of Rich Dad Poor Dad (highly recommended) had a simple saying "It isn't what you make, it is what you keep".

I work hard not to spend my money on trivial things....and I definitely resent being told because I make more than X number of dollars I need to give them some.

I made less than X number of dollars myself. When I did, I didn't live by myself, I didn't buy all the groceries, I didn't drive new(er) cars, I didn't have a cell phone.
I did without.

I resent being told that each and every person making less than X number of dollars is equally worthy of my money. They aren't, not because of their skin color or race or education level but because their choices, their repeated choices keep them poor.

Victor Frankel wrote "Between stimulus and response, there is a space. And in that space is the freedom to choose."

If some people choice to spend their money foolishly, shouldn't they reap the consequences?

(sorry for the mini-rant, this is a hot button issue. I do appreciate you listing me as one of the people who have worked for their success.)

Borepatch said...

There's a whole metric ton of honesty and insight in this post, Sabra.

I'd make a joke about how, now that #1 Son is in college and we have tuition payments, we're poor. But that's just silly, and unfair to people who are actually poor.

What got me disgusted with the Democrats enough to ditch the party is how they love to use poor people to grab money and power. The poor get screwed by Democrat policies, while the Party mouths pretty lies about helping them, The Press, of course, if happy to ignore all this.

Dave said...

Sabra, once again, you've nailed it - "The mindset is always someone oughta do something, never I'm gonna go do something.

I don't think it is so much that I always agree with your views (though, I think I mostly do), I just think that the way you logically lay things out to make your case puts your writing above the majority of writers working in newspapers around here. If you had a weekly column in the Express-News, it might be cause for me to subscribe again.

skippy said...

Sabra - Do you think declaring that an entire broad group of political philosophy believes the exact same negative thing might be the exact sort of dehumanizing that you are talking about? (Not meant to be snarky, just curious about your response)